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C. Stephen Evans

Should Christians Be Physicalists?

Not so fast.

Too many Biblical scholars see their work as a narrow, technical specialty, and show great reluctance to venture into questions of theology. In Body, Soul, and Human Life, part of the Studies in Theological Interpretation series, Joel Green (who is himself one of the editors of this series) shows a commendable willingness to think about the significance of biblical texts to deal with contemporary issues. Green wants to give a fresh look at what the Bible says about human beings in this work. Furthermore, he wants to look at the biblical teachings in light of contemporary scientific findings about humans, especially the findings of cognitive neuroscience.

Green often calls cognitive neuroscience just "cognitive science," but this is misleading. Cognitive science is an interdisciplinary field that is much broader than cognitive neuroscience. In particular, cognitive science includes the work of philosophers and researchers in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), a subject that Green almost entirely ignores. This is not too surprising, since Green's aim is to affirm the importance of the human body for our understanding of humans, an aim that attention to AI, with its emphasis on formal programs and understanding of intelligence as functional, would make more difficult to fulfill. For AI theorists, especially those committed to what is called "strong AI theory," what we call "minds" are functional systems that in principle can be realized in many kinds of hardware—or "wetware," in the case of human brains.

Most of Green's positive contentions in this book strike me as completely right. He affirms, for example, that it is legitimate, even necessary, to consider contemporary scientific findings when interpreting the Bible. Biblical interpreters at least from the time of Augustine on have followed this principle, which is based on the conviction that all truth is God's truth and thus that God's revelation in nature must ultimately cohere with what God reveals in ...

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